WAITE PARK -- The number of child care providers in Minnesota is down and a public meeting was held at Waite Park City Hall tonight (Wednesday) by a state committee to hear from local providers.

The House Select Committee on Affordable Child Care is a group of state representatives traveling all over Minnesota to hear from child care providers. According to their report, Minnesota has lost 22% of its child care providers over the past decade -- including a 17.5% decrease in Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties.

Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON
Photo by Isaac Schweer, WJON

"We're going to hear from daycare providers what they they see as obstacles or barriers to entry or remaining in business," says committee member Rep. Tim O'Driscoll of Sartell. "As long as we have working families, we're going to need to have child care and without that child care, we can't have working families."

O'Driscoll says they want to hear what is seen as the biggest problems and to what degree.

"Is it regulatory, licensing, or education issues," O'Driscoll says. "What is it they see [necessary] to be able to provide quality daycare and child care programs and facilities."

Two local child care providers who asked to not be named described the current situation as a "crisis" with inconsistencies in licensing.

"There are rules, but the rules are left up to the interpretations of each individual licensing worker," one provider says. "So what might work for my child care is not going to the same for [another] child care if we have different licensing workers."

"There are many families that are looking for care, especially for their infants, and they're not finding it," another provider says. "What I'm upset about is the county and state licensors really are not listening to us as businesses and as taxpayers -- I just want to be heard."

Rep. O'Driscoll says he was "pleased" by the large turnout of the evening and the committee is planning similar meetings to be held at locations around the state in the coming months.

One of the providers says they are encouraged by the state holding these meetings to begin a dialogue and hopefully find a resolution.

"I'm highly satisfied that this is going on and hoping we can see some results, because I hear there were very large turnouts in different parts of the state," the provider says. "I think there is a fear to speak up because we don't know if licensors will be in the room, [but] I'm hoping people will come forward and have a voice."